Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June 23: The Raconteurs, "Consolers Of The Lonely"

Artist: The Raconteurs
Album: Consolers Of The Lonely
Year: 2008
Label: Warner Bros.

While a simple, no frills approach is often brings out the best in an artist, when it is taken to an extreme, it can often be too restrictive. When it comes to musician extraordinaire Jack White, the truth is that his main band, The White Stripes, hold him back from showing all of the talent that lies within him. Though The White Stripes have many many great records, once White steps into the studio with a group of musicians and is not bound by any "format" or "sound," the genius he possesses shines brightly. Assembling a group of extremely talented friends, White's first side project, The Raconteurs, are an absolutely musical powerhouse. Having released a pair of sensational records since forming in 2005, it is their second album, 2008's Consolers Of The Lonely that showcases the seemingly limitless talent that lies within this amazing band.

The actual release of Consolers Of The Lonely was an event in its own right, with the band not even confirming that the record existed until a week before its release. The band claimed that it was due to the fact that the record was recorded only 3 weeks prior, yet many also saw it as a brilliant move to side-step critics, and deliver directly to fans. Even with all of this, Consolers Of The Lonely was leaked early, and many people were able to purchased it a few days before the "official" release. The album lived up to all of the hype that quickly surrounded it, and the record is a sensational collection of rock songs. Consolers Of The Lonely has all out rockers as well as slower, bluesy ballads and everything in between. The band also takes a moment for a rather obscure, yet fitting cover, as they deliver a fantastic version of cult-hero Terry Reid's, "Rich Kid Blues." With perfect production done by Jack White and Brendan Benson, the record is so good that one almost forgets that this is White's SIDE project, and not his main band. Also, for those wondering, the album title is derived from the inscription on the central U.S. post office in Washington, DC, which reads: "Messenger of sympathy and love, servant of parted friends, consoler of the lonely, bond of the scattered family, enlarge of the common life."

As a group, The Raconteurs are one of the most hard rocking, attitude driven bands of the past decades, and they even take a moment to sing what might be considered the groups' motto on the song, "The Switch And The Spur" when Jack sings, "...any poor souls who trespass against us...will be suffer the bite or be stung dead on sight..." Guitarists White and Benson are an earth-shaking duo, and whether bringing crushing chords or beautiful, meandering melodies, they play perfectly off one another. White also furthers the "old school" mood on Consolers Of The Lonely when he exchanges his guitar for a vintage stylophone. Greenhornes drummer, Patrick Keeler, fits in perfectly with the group, nailing each variation on style, while fellow Greenhorne and bassist/banjo player, Jack Lawerence completes one of the finest modern rhythm sections. Consolers Of The Lonely also gets a great amount of its amazing sound from the guest musicians who appear throughout the album. The Memphis Horns, who have backed everyone from Issac Hayes to Alicia Keys to The Doobie Brothers make an appearance on Consolers Of The Lonely, and they add to the albums fantastic mood. Also lending his talents to the record is Queens Of The Stone Age keyboard player, Dean Fertia. With the wide range of styles, and collective talent, it is little surprise that Consolers Of The Lonely is such an amazing record.

Though a majority of the vocals on Consolers Of The Lonely are handled by Jack White, Brendan Benson also takes the microphone for a few songs. Much like their guitar work, the pair work perfectly, following and playing off of one another. White's voice is one of the most unmistakable in modern music, and his distinctively aggressive, yet charming style are as captivating here as on any of his other work. There are moments when Jack White sounds like the perfect frontman for any of the 1960's and 1970's mega-rock bands, not surprisingly, one of the most apparent examples is on "Rich Kid Blues." The lyrics are rather varied, from calls against modern lifestyle to deep rooted depression, yet the way in which they are presented makes them a perfect group. Easily one of the high points of the album is the final song, "Carolina Drama." A dark and almost chaotic tale of murder, it is easily one of the most captivating songs ever written. White's vocals are perfect, and the song is as much a campfire "scary story" as much as it is a classic "southern" tale of woe. The split vocals and wire range of lyrical themes help to take The Raconteurs sound to another level and make the album an absolute powerhouse of a record.

Say what you will about The White Stripes, but the reality is, when Jack White is free of the self-imposed constraints of the band, his true talent and genius as a musician is allowed to flourish. Composing diverse instrumentations, yet staying firmly planted in his aggressive, lo-fi sound, his side project, The Raconteurs, stand as one of the most original and enthralling bands to emerge in decades. With a clear influence from the folk, southern, and outright rock bands of the 1960's and 1970's, the group is able to update the sound and style and create a magnificent, high spirited feeling that is a joy to experience time and time again. Jack White has moved to yet another group, The Dead Weather, and it may signal that The Raconteurs will not record another album. If this is sadly the case, one can truly be thankful that they released 2008's Consolers Of The Lonely, as it is undoubtedly an absolutely phenomenal rock and roll record, fusing sounds of the past with the energy and style that comes with every recording featuring Jack White.

Standout tracks: "Salute Your Solution," "Many Shades Of Black," and "Carolina Drama."

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